A wage dispute between Walmart and Southeast Washington D.C. has sparked a controversial debate throughout the country.
D.C. city officials approved a law that would require Walmart to pay its employees what they call a living wage that is above the minimum wage requirement. A familiar story for the city of Sarasota.
"When people look at the history of Walmart they look at the city of Sarasota because we are one of the first people to vote them out of here," former city commissioner Fred Atkins is referring to the referendum placed on the 2012 November ballot. It required companies who get more than 100- thousand dollars in government subsidies to pay their employees above minimum wage.
"They wanted to take advantage of our CRA,which is a community redevelopment area, A HUD zone which is a federal tax increments zone that gives them tax breaks, our enterprise zone which is a hole another set of tax breaks," added Atkins.
Because of all the incentives, Walmart was the focus of the referendum. And, after the measure passed the company opted not to build on the site located off 301 and MLK. A move many say cost the city more than 200 jobs but Atkins disagrees.
"Walmart is the new plantation owner and they are creating bills for all of the people of the United States. All of us have to pay for Walmart employees, we have to pay for their housing we have to pay for their insurance we have to pay for their medicare we have to pay for their everything because Walmart gives them minimum wage and less than a full time job," said Atkins.
According to payscale.com Walmart pays their employees 3 percent less than the market scale. Similar companies like CVS and Home Depot pay 1 percent less.
"I think they should pay more than minimum wage, look at the society today.. the housing is higher the food is higher," said a walmart shopper.
Another shopper agreed saying, "People have to support their family the big ceo should be the only one to receive a high pay check."
"when they come to a community they compete against any and every body in the area and then they absorb their employees."
In addition to the low wages Atkins says big box stores like Walmart tend to force smaller mom and pop shops out of business. "When they come to a community they compete against any and every body in the area and then they absorb their employees."
Despite all the negatives Walmart is a very popular store. Last year they made $15.7 billion in profits and many say forcing a corporation to pay more than minimum wage is a bad move.
Walmart has already decided not to go forward with 3 of the 6 sites they were going to build in the DC area. The company says the fate the remaining three stores is up in the air.